The brouhaha over what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) knew about torture, and when she knew it, is typical of the American "debate" over the events of the past eight years — the long Bush Interregnum, when we slipped into an alternate universe, and Bizarro World ethics displaced our regular moral compass, effectively inverting traditional concepts of right and wrong. Typical in that the real issues are avoided, or not mentioned at all.
We keep hearing arguments from defenders of the administration’s "enhanced interrogation techniques" that go something like this: you have to remember that everything was different way back then, the smoke was still rising from the ruins of the World Trade Center and if you had asked the archetypal man-in-the-street if it was okay to torture the terrorists, nary a single one of them would have said no. Everyone — or so the argument goes — is forgetting what it was like.
Yet this argument makes a valid point, albeit one that fails to justify torture: the elected leadership of the country, and much of the US population, went collectively mad in the weeks — and years — after the worst terrorist attack in American history. It isn’t at all hard to believe that Pelosi, too — being human, all too human — was swept up in the hysteria, and went along with those "enhanced interrogation techniques" without uttering a word of protest.
Pelosi says she was never informed that one particular terrorist suspect was water-boarded, in spite of recently-released CIA documents that clearly indicate she was briefed on the specific details of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" performed on this prisoner — a reputed high-level al-Qaeda operative who was water-boarded 83 times in a single month.
On the other hand, Pelosi contends — well, it’s hard to say what she contends, because her story keeps changing. First she said she knew nothing about it. Then she said she knew about the "enhanced" techniques, but only that this was an option, not that they were going to be used or had actually been used. Now she’s changed her story yet again, and is claiming that the Bush administration "misled" her, and carried out these torture sessions before she was briefed. Regardless of what shape her story takes on any particular day, what she says and what the CIA documents say can’t both be true. Somebody is fibbing, bigtime — and I don’t think it’s Leon Panetta over at the CIA.
By all means, let us have a "truth commission," as Speaker Pelosi has advocated, with one difference: it ought not to be mandated or controlled in any way by Congress — since we don’t know how many members, or which ones, are implicated in these crimes.
Instead, let an independent commission made up of professional researchers and investigators in this field, along with competent academics, hold public sessions at which the testimony of witnesses can be heard. And as long as we’re in an investigative mood, there’s plenty in the legacy of the Bush years that cries out for a vigorous probe. Here’s my own personal wish list:
Let’s investigate the "intelligence" that got us into the Iraq war — starting with the Niger uranium forgeries [.pdf]. You’ll recall the once-famous "sixteen words" uttered by Bush in the course of a speech, in which he claimed that the African nation of Niger had been the site of an attempt by Saddam Hussein to procure uranium ore. The "intelligence" behind this assertion turned out to be a very crude forgery, the provenance of which has remained a mystery to this day — although we have a few important clues. In any case, that’s not the only example of outright fraud when it comes to "evidence" of Iraqi WMD, proffered during the run-up to the invasion, only the most glaring.
Remember Ahmed Chalabi, the smooth-talking slickster and neocon hero who bamboozled us out of millions in exchange for phony "intelligence" purportedly "proving" Iraq was harboring all kinds of WMD? He disappeared for a while, after characterizing himself and his confreres as "heroes in error," and popped up months later as a possible oil minister in the new Iraqi government. Right before he disappeared, however, the CIA raided his Iraqi headquarters and stories appeared in the American media reporting that he was suspected of committing espionage against the United States: the Iranians apparently learned through Chalabi that the Americans had broken their code and were eavesdropping on the internal deliberations of the Iranian government. The Iranians changed their code, and an invaluable window on the Iranian leadership was closed. Chalabi dropped out of sight, resurfacing as putative oil minister — and that was the last we heard of the probe into Chalabi’s activities.
At one point, you’ll recall, the FBI was running lie-detector tests on Pentagon employees to determine if any of them had leaked information to Chalabi. That’s one investigation that needs to be resumed.
By the way, another possibly related investigation into Israeli spying activities in the US — the same probe that led to the indictment of Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, two top AIPAC officials — is still ongoing. According to former DIA analyst Pat Lang, writing on his Sic Semper Tyrannis blog:
"Sources familiar with the FBI investigation of the AIPAC espionage case, say that the investigation is continuing even though the charges against Rosen and Weissman were dropped. Harman was interviewed by DoJ prosecutors after the Rosen/Weissman charges were dropped.
"Sources indicate that based on multi-agency reports of Israeli espionage activities in the US prior to 9/11, George Tenet as DCI ordered his senior staff to assemble for him a study of all the files available concerning the history of Israeli espionage activities in the US. The resulting study shocked him."
That’s one subject on which we’ll never see a congressional investigation, of that you can be sure. Fortunately, however, when it comes to all of the above topics, and more, we have a source of investigative reporting that is on the ball and on the War Party’s case. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about Antiwar.com.
From the Niger uranium forgeries to the "Mohammed Atta in Prague" story, from the Scooter Libby case to the Rosen-Weissman-AIPAC spy nest, Antiwar.com has gone where most "mainstream" media outlets were very slow to tread. We nailed Scooter Libby from day one, and were all over the Niger uranium forgeries with reportage and detailed analysis, while the "mainstream" never covered the story in depth.
What’s important in running a news portal and commentary site such as this is that the editors know what’s going to be significant — before it becomes a big deal. A good example of our news judgment in this regard is our comprehensive coverage of the AIPAC spy scandal, the arrest and conviction of former Pentagon analyst Larry Frankliln, and the long legal process following the indictment of Rosen and Weissman — which we reported and commented on every step of the way, while the "mainstream" ignored it after the indictments went down. Our persistence paid off when Rep. Jane Harman was caught red-handed talking to "a suspected Israeli agent" offering her assistance in getting lenient treatment for Rosen and Weissman in exchange for AIPAC’s help in securing the chair of the House intelligence committee. As the Harman scandal roiled official Washington, regular readers of this site had a fuller understanding of the context in which it was occurring.
There’s a lot more going on than they want us to know — that is a given. The key to discovering it is to look behind the headlines, at the larger narrative taking shape, a method that gives our readers the real lowdown on what the War Party has in store. That’s what the spirit of independent journalism is all about, and it’s alive and well here at Antiwar.com — but only as long as our money holds out, and it’s going fast.
We depend entirely on the generosity of our readers to keep going, and our current fundraising drive is now going full-gear. I know you’ve been hectored endlessly for the past couple of days, but believe me, it’s necessary — because if we don’t make our fundraising goal, the spirit of independent journalism as represented by this web site is going to wilt considerably. So don’t delay — contribute today.